Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Oscars 2016 (Sorry for the Lack of Visual Aids)

First off, I regret to admit that I missed the red carpet opening procession. 

This year I was looking forward to seeing Chris Rock host the Oscars more than I’ve anticipated a host for the Oscars in my life thus far.  Of course, this was due to the black man “having rewritten” his act in response to all the controversy about systemic and silent racism in the movie industry.  I was wondering whether he would be a flag-raising, bridge-burning wildman denouncer, or would he graciously walk a fine line and bring much needed levity to the topic.

As it turned out, my hopes were realized as he definitely called the industry out on its problems but lightened the mood with self-mockery, an art-form that African-descended peoples have seemed to master. 

Personally, I think the controversy is kind of overblown, and not 
because I don’t care.  For one thing, Chris Rock expressed the notion that black people simply wanted more opportunities for roles, but the Oscars are awards and not opportunities.  That being said, awards can lead to more work.  Yet, I have a deeper misgiving about the controversy.

The Oscars are being made an issue because black people hold it in such high esteem.  But why?  Why hold this white-driven, shyster-dream of a business in such esteem?  Why not be better than, in both production and ceremony?  If you already respect and admire the Hollywood legacy then one has to buy into the culture to some extent.

Chris Rock raised a compelling solution: add black categories (like those that already exist for the sexes).  In the Grammy’s, a much more diverse awards show for a more diverse industry, there are separate categories for Latin Jazz and Rap (mostly black).  This is a viable solution that breeds less inherent competition between races.  Contrary to popular sentiment, a white man can’t do what a black man does, and vice-versa; has a white man ever looked in the mirror and seen black?  Didn’t think so; a black man sees black every time in the mirror (unless they’re hallucinating).  Can a white woman donate her hair for a frizzy black-haired wig?  No, a black woman can.  The list goes ever on.  Rocks deftly rocked the controversy. 

Needless to say, it was my favorite opening ceremonies so far in my lifetime.

As to the awards themselves: I was happy that Spotlight was the upset winner.  It reminded me of All the President’s Men but with a topic that cuts even deeper to the core. 

In many ways, The Revenant was just a glorified revenge picture although it only grabs at some transcendence with its sense of enlightened humility, yet in some ways the film has to be survived as the characters must survive the harsh winter and indigenous attacks.  Nevertheless, I thought Alejandro González Iñárritu made sense for best director.  I love that a Mexican finally got mainstream recognition by putting white faces in his films; white faces sell really well worldwide for some reason. 

DiCaprio’s win for The Revenant was well deserved, certainly. 

Shame on me, I didn’t see Room, and I may never.
I was remiss that Sylvester Stallone didn’t get the Oscar, but the actor who won (ummm, Mark Rylance!) did stir my soul with his quiet performance.    

I’m happy for Tarantino that his stated favorite Mad Max: Fury Road won so many technical awards.  I’m also happy for George Miller and Australia, even though he cheated Australia for cheapness in Namibia!

The award win that I was most passionate about was Ennio Morricon’s score for The Hateful Eight.  I love that he won a regular Oscars after the lifetime achievement Oscar!  This score shows that classic spine-tingling spaghetti western music is still possible in this era of flaccid, atrophied screen slush that so often pervades.  Morricone is Mr. Universe in his artistic discipline.

Lastly, I really loved Dave Grohl’s low-key in memoriam segment rendition of “Blackbird.”  For many years I thought the music during these segments were too weepy and overwrought, in the past few years the segments have gotten more mellow, hence, more optimistic (or at least less bitter).  This year’s in memoriam was my favorite yet. 

In the end, the awards themselves were mostly a wash to me, but I loved the host and the in memoriam.

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